By Steven Noble
The fluorescent lights of empty office buildings reach for the heavens, attempting to emulate the stars that litter the late-night sky – or early-morning sky if you’re a rower.
Toronto sleeps at 5:30 a.m., Monday morning as the bleary-eyed, red-faced rowers slip their boats into the water from the six wooden docks lining the waterfront at the Bayside Rowing Club, home to the Ryerson team. Chatter is minimal, but that’s not because people are tired. The glow of their faces and the determination in their eyes tells you the real reason for their silence: Focus.
Everyone just wants to get on the water. A goose honks in the distance as the men’s eight pushes into the canal. Robyn, their coxswain, barks an order from the front of the boat, and eight rippling backs lean forward with arms extended.
The black blades slice the water’s glassy surface without a sound, other than the click from the oars in their oarlocks and an occasional grunt. The rowers lean back, exhaling a cloud of breath through pursed lips, as they pull the grips of the oars to their chests with a patient desperation, their biceps bulging as the boat surges forwardagain and again, in a fluid motion, like a finely tuned machine.
A morning in the life of a Ryerson’s newly-formed rowing team might be a little different from that of the rest of the student body.
Andy Guiry, a second-year architecture student and captain of the men’s team, breaks down a typical morning practice schedule:
4:35 a.m. – Alarm goes off.
4:40 a.m. – Get breakfast (usually 2 bowls of cereal, orange juice and raspberry yogurt). I also get my Nalgene bottle and make some Gatorade for practice.
4:55 a.m. – Head down the stairs to the rez lobby, say good morning to the security guard, and get let into the parking garage where the bikes are kept.
5:00 a.m. – Meet all of the other crazy people who are riding to practice outside of Pitman.
5:10 a.m. – All of us (there are about 10) leave to head down to the lake. It usually takes us about 20 minutes.
5:30 a.m. – Practice starts with a few lucky people who get to sweep the goose poo from the docks and then we all get our boats. I am in a single and am usually the first one out on the water.
7:30 a.m. – [We’re] usually pretty sweaty and tired — the best possible way to come off the water.
Guiry, who has spent the last two years battling through a frustrating hamstring injury, is finally healthy and set on Ontario University Athletics success.
“Every workout that I finish is, in my mind, a leap towards an OUA medal in the single [competition].” And from there, a dream of making the national team and from there…who knows.
Dominic Kahn, Rams coach and a former national champion, didn’t flinch when talking of building future Olympians from Ryerson’s student population.
“We’re looking for anyone who has any sort of athletic background and we want them to know that it’s actually possible,” said Kahn. When asked what it takes to make a great rower, Kahn emphatically thumps his chest, indicating heart as the key to any winner.
“We can teach and make everything else.” The team is mostly novice rowers right nowthose with little to no experience – but it looks to be a strong group this year.
Guiry himself said he’s never seen a “more promising group of novice rowers than we have this year.”
“You cannot pick [one individual] to keep an eye on – it is the crew as a whole that pull together, who train and puke every day, who cross the finish line together.”